“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20
When Apostle Paul explain the gospel to the church in Rome, he pointed out that the created world manifest God’s eternal power and divine nature, and no one can hold excuses against it. In the Old Testament, the writers wrote numerous times about the world’s creations to praise God, for example, in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Man can glimpse the glory of God through the created world, and knew that he himself was also part of the creations. Man and all things in the heavens, on earth, and in the seas belong to and sustain by the Creator.
When a disaster strikes, everything valuable seems to vanish in a moment. What can man do but sigh? You might think that the photo was taken from a landfill, but it is Basey, a picturesque and fertile land west of the Philippines with a thriving fishing industry.
Human beings seem to be very passive and can do nothing to avoid or control an unforeseen disaster. Disasters happening far-away seem surreal and irrelevant. But is it really true that we have no relation to the disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in 2013, severe droughts and famines in East African countries in 2011, floods across South Asia in 2010, Africa’s droughts and floods in 2009, and the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008?
Human relationships with God, others and the earth are broken. Immeasurable destruction is caused by selfishness, naivety and greed when human exploit and thoughtlessly develop natural resources. Melting glaciers in the North Pole caused by global warming may take years to affect Hong Kong, but this is a grave matter for people living in low-lying lands. Residents of Basey told us, ‘Super Typhoon Haiyan causes massive destruction. In recent years, we, especially the coastal inhabitants, have been threatened by frequent flooding and what worse is the flood level gets higher every year – a mere “amber rain warning” can mean a rise of water level of over a meter.’
How do Christians respond to ecological imbalance and ever greater hardship of disadvantaged groups? CEDAR is holding her annual Carbon Fast during Lent so that Christians can through meditation and reflection renew their personal life and their relationship with God, individuals, communities and the earth. This year’s theme is ‘Reduce Carbon Emission ~ Share Our Love’, with an objective to show that our action is not merely a virtue or purely for preservation of environment, but should reflect external practice of our internal reflections, our belief turned into action, and real practices to care for our neighbours and faraway people who suffer from climate problems. Dear readers, rather than sighing over natural and manmade disasters, let us take positive action and reduce carbon emission. Carbon Fast 2014 awaits your participation!
Hong Kong people in middle-aged or above are familiar with a song of Sam Hui in the 70’s describing the hardship from water suspension; and remember the day we shouted ‘Hey My Neighbours below, turn off your water tap!’ Nowadays with the steady water supply from Dongjiang, we seldom need to worry about water shortage. Instead we often hear people advocating today for a simple lifestyle for environmental sake. In fact this is easier to say than to do. The easiest way maybe is pushing the government, manufacturers and logistics industry to take up their responsibilities in environmental protection. However, what they supply every day is merely for satisfying and stimulating our unlimited material demand.
[ ‘SHARE’ Jan-Feb 2014 – Who Is Willing to Be Their Neighbour? ] TAKING ACTION
Author> Wendy FUNG
Thank God for leading me to a number of CEDAR’s events in the past two years. In January 2013, I joined the exposure trip to Ethiopia where I learned and witnessed God’s power; the trip also helped me understand CEDAR’s operation. The impact of CEDAR Carbon Fast during Lent on me is the most apparent; I was invited to be a member of ‘Carbon Fast Army’, assist posting photos on Facebook about Carbon Fast. With the aid of Scriptures prepared by CEDAR, I have gained better understand of the purposes of our daily Fast actions and God’s will at creation. Some of the Fast actions such as waste sorting and bringing my own water bottle/cutlery have become my daily habits.
On a missions trip to Madagascar in 2012, the missionary not only took home leftovers from the table, she also reused plastic boxes after cleansing as the refuse collection system there is inadequate and people just dumped all wastes into big garbage bins on road-sides. Besides doing evangelisation and church planting, I saw the missionary’s effort not to produce waste and perceived her integral love towards the land and inhabitants thereon.
The Philippines was hit by severe Tropical Storm Haiyan that killed thousands and affected over nine million people. It is irrefutable that human activities aggravate extreme climate changes and the frequent natural disasters make the poor’s lives harder, even taking away many precious lives. Isn’t it ironic that we seek to take the gospel to the ends of the world, whilst our lifestyles bring about changes that would reduce the chance of the poor hearing the gospel? I used to question the effect in turning off one lamp on carbon emissions reduction! But if all Christians change our current lifestyles and practise the bible’s teaching, I believe that by the Holy Spirit we can change the world. Living an Integral Mission may sound grand and hard to start, but we may live it out a bit in a day. Let us start today and with God’s help exert influence on people around us doing small things in loving our world. (Watch a clip by Tearfund UK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vph2oLKb1qM)
In January 2013, Wendy joined CEDAR’s exposure trip to Ethiopia; taking part in Carbon Fast and as a member of ‘Carbon Fast Army’ practising and mobilising low carbon living for better environmental protection in February and March; Wendy further joined CEDAR Barefoot Walk in November showing support for impoverished children.
[ ‘SHARE’ May-Jun 2013 – Seeing It with Our Eyes ] FOCUS ~ AN EXPOSURE TRIP
Man-yin says, ‘Once more the Lord calls me, “Go, retrieve their lost image as God’s children so that they may regain dignity in life.”‘
Writer> Sandy LAM, Education and Promotion Officer
In January this year, thirteen of us (two staff with eleven team members) spent twelve days in Ethiopia. During this trip, fresh-faced and friendly children welcomed us, the women’s situations shocked us, family struggles for survival moved us, farmers’ abundant harvest delighted us, and the churches’ loving ministry filled our hearts with joy… All these were beyond our understanding and expectations.
Jessica’s sharing leads us to ponder: ‘This trip has made me reconsider why we go on exposure trips. Is it for something to boast about, or to gain travelling experience, or just to be there and have an easy holiday? I thank God for making me think from the start so that the trip would not be taken in vain.’
Yes, the 12-day-trip took us out of our comfort zone, but bit by bit changed our outlook.
Beyond our imagination…
Like many people in Hong Kong, we thought of Ethiopia as impoverished and undeveloped. When friends and families heard of our trip, they worried that we might suffer hunger amidst harsh conditions.
But when we arrived we saw a different scene. Wendy tells us: ‘I was wrong to think that Ethiopia was lagging behind; I was surprised to see that the country has a modern airport and new cars driving on wide streets.’
High-rises being constructed in the capital Addis Ababa
Similarly Ah Wai observes: ‘There might still be starvation in Ethiopia but on the whole it has moved from “relief” to “development”… The locals commented on the capital’s speedy development in recent years and Ethiopia appears to be undergoing a “China-like” development…’
We were impressed by the airport, streets, buildings and motorcars, but how about the everyday life of the people?
Poor people may seem isolated and helpless and need outside help to improve their livelihood, but we who think we are ‘rich’ are also very ‘poor’.
One day, as we walked up a hill to a rural church at the project point for an hour, Ah Ting said self-mockingly: ‘None of my knowledge was useful in the situation. I even needed a child to help me walk down a slope, and I was breathless after a short while. To the locals I must be the “backward” one.’
Villagers and children help team walk down hills
On our way up, Milly walked with a 10-year old boy. During that half-hour she learnt that although material life was meagre, their internal resources, wealth and strength was superior to ours. ‘In all situations, all lives are equal and that is the same with the relationship between donors and beneficiaries. The poor do not need things which you might see as lacking but then everyone has equal value and status.’
Fiona says, ‘How wonderful is Father God’s creation; in this harsh environment farmers can still grow a variety of produce!’
The villagers’ self-sufficiency and simple lifestyle impressed us city-dwellers.
Beyond our souls…
We witnessed how a local church acts as God’s channel in the cities and villages, serving with love to help improve lives. ‘I thank God for the work done by Addis Ababa Guenet Church (AAGC, CEDAR’s partner). It does not simply preach the gospel but actually cares for the poor outside the church building, giving them practical assistance and services. I saw a community who walks with the poor in Christ-like love and care,’ says Celia.
The church actively responds to social issues and practises mercy and justice. When we visited a programme on stopping female genital mutilation (FGM) we heard tales of suffering from the church and women that shocked us.
Ah Wai says thoughtfully: ‘FGM is obviously oppressive to women and girls, causing them grave physical and psychological damage. The church organises volunteer teams and small groups for young girls to oppose female circumcision, combining bible teaching to change social values (or the society’s unreasonable system/traditions). The church is not only concerned with religious faith but also [heavenly] values that the gospel represents. The church is bold in objecting to the society’s existing inhumane traditions.’
Women speak on breaking the bondage of genital mutilation
We will always remember the testimonies, lives and faces of the church, families, villagers, women and children we met.
This exposure trip not only helped us understand more about Ethiopia’s development and needs, but also challenged our faith as we heard impoverished families speak and saw how they continued to rely on God in their difficulties.
Viola reflected deeply on the matter: ‘The family we visited wrestled between daily living and their faith but they were serious and persevering believers. Their child drew a picture entitled “Jesus is Lord” – a very familiar statement and yet so powerful and difficult to grasp. I searched my heart: What would I do if I were in their situation? Would I choose security in life or my faith? Do I really know Whom I believe? How real is my confession in the Lord? Who is rich and who is poor?’
Poor families within AAGC ‘dance with suffering’ and face life with joy – Rachel
‘None of the people we visited cried; on the contrary they spoke in the power of their faith. Suffering remains but their faith is also very real, as if life could not be lived without God. I may sit in an air-conditioned room contemplating the theology of suffering, but these people dance with God in their daily suffering, supported by hope – and they themselves live out hope.’ Ah Wai shares with us.
Through real life accounts God speaks to us, changes our mentality and renews our lives.
After our return…
We left Ethiopia with precious memories which have brought much reflection into our lives.
Some members have resolved to re-examine their lifestyles to reduce unnecessary consumption; some have joined CEDAR’s Carbon Fast 2013 and are learning to live an environmentally friendly low-carbon life.
As Agnes says, ‘Living a stable life and enjoying religious freedom in Hong Kong makes me think of poverty as a faraway matter. But through this trip God has taught me that He has not forgotten the world and that His blessings are global. He will raise us up to work together and learn to love others as we love ourselves, and through the ministry of caring for society His mighty kingdom will be revealed, that people may practise integral mission.’
Ethiopia may be distant and unfamiliar, but at least we have taken the first step to bridge the chasm.
[ ‘SHARE’ Jan-Feb 2013 – Green Notes Or Green Life? ] FOCUS: TOPICAL INTERVIEW
Last year Vince worked as a volunteer at a wetland forest in Vietnam.
Reporter> WU Ying Lun
In recent years conservation and development has become a hot topic locally, but other countries are also facing similar struggles and challenges. Dickson Wong, Vince Cheung and Samuel Chiu, three Christian conservationists, tell us about different countries’ stance on development and the church’s involvement.